Category Archives: From the Staff

From the Director ~ June 2024

Dear Friends,

Happy summer to you! We’ve had a busy month! All 53 of our beds continue to be full, and we have several men on a waiting list looking to enter our New Life Program. Of our 53 residents, nineteen are currently employed and saving up as they prepare to move out into their own place in a few short months. Ten men are actively job searching, and two are enrolled in school (one in a peer specialist training program, and the other in a culinary training program at Philabundance Community Kitchen). The rest are working hard in the first phase of the program to prepare for their eventual job search.

We were especially delighted to have had so many men graduate from the New Life Program and move into their own independent housing in recent days – Colb, Sophan, Kisho, Chris, and Chad, with several more men on the cusp of securing apartments as I write this. Please pray for our graduates as they adjust to life in this new season – especially that they would be faithful to continue with the good and healthy habits they put into practice while living at the Mission.

We also have quite a lot happening with our buildings. The window project in the thrift store is almost complete. As I write this we’re just waiting on the last bay of storefront windows and five new doors along Chelten Avenue. It’s been quite the project! We’re especially excited to have our windows on the first and second floors restored to full height. We have so much more light inside now! The next step will be to have the building painted. We’re in the process of getting bids now.

Meanwhile, we have several plumbing, HVAC, and general repairs that we’re looking at this summer (our buildings are well-used!), adding to our regular operating expenses and the additional summertime cost of keeping our large, old buildings cool and safe in dangerously hot weather. Please pray with us for the Lord’s continued provision of all our needs. Thank you for all that you do to partner with us – you are a big part of God’s provision to us. We are grateful!

Blessings from our family to yours for a safe and enjoyable summer!

Grace and peace,

Heather L. Rice, D.Min.
Executive Director

Our thrift store window project is almost complete!
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From the Director ~ May 2024

Dear Friends,

We’ve been doing some spring cleaning around the Mission. Part of it is because we need to make way for the next round of new windows that are coming to our thrift shop on Chelten Avenue this spring. But there’s also something about the sunshine, the warmer weather, and the budding trees that makes it seem as if God were dusting off the earth, opening up all the windows and hanging bright, fresh curtains. It makes me want to spruce up my space, too. I think that’s a pretty universal feeling. It’s why we even have a phrase like “spring cleaning.”

As I write this, we have a little deep-cleaning competition going on among our residents in their individual living spaces up in the dorms (complete with prizes for the categories of cleanest, most organized, and best decorated). It’s been fun. In many ways, the spring cleaning that’s going on upstairs with brooms and sponges and rags is a picture of what God is doing inside the hearts and lives of men who have come to the Mission in need of some “sprucing up.” Entering the Mission’s community and sensing the warmth of relationships, remembering forgotten feelings of joy, or even experiencing small successes can stir up hope for the possibility of a bright new tomorrow.

Spring cleaning also has its challenges. If you’re anything like me, you may have found yourself at some point sitting in the midst of a mess, in the middle of project that you enthusiastically started but now have no energy to finish. You wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into, and you feel overwhelmed at the prospect of working your way out of it. It would have been easier to have just left everything shoved in the closet where it was! So it can be with our men and the things they are working so hard for. The path forward can get messier before it gets better. After enthusiastically diving into the hard work of life-change, it can get tough and feel a bit overwhelming. That’s where the Mission community of staff, fellow residents, volunteers, and friends comes in. We have the holy privilege of coming alongside one another to help and encourage each other, to cheer each other on towards the goal. You are part of that community, and we are grateful!

I was reminded yesterday of just how important our relationships are. A guest asked one of our residents what he appreciated most about the Mission and our New Life Program. Without skipping a beat, he answered, “The relationships. We really are like a family here. Everyone genuinely cares about each other. That’s what means the most to me.” I agree wholeheartedly. We couldn’t be that family apart from you. I am truly grateful for you and your continued investment in the lives and futures of our men and their families. Blessings to you and yours!

Grace and peace,

Heather L. Rice, D.Min.
Executive Director

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From the Director ~ April 2024

Dear Friends,

As I write this, the Mission is perking along nicely. All of our beds are full, and we have a waiting list of several men looking to enter our New Life Program. Of our 53 residents, twelve are currently employed and saving up as they prepare to move out into their own place in a few short months. Fourteen men are actively job searching, and two are enrolled in a culinary training program at Philabundance Community Kitchen. The rest are in what we call the Foundations Phase of our program as they work to sharpen their educational, vocational, and life skills in preparation for employment, graduation, and successful independent living.

Each of these men, from the youngest (at 24 years old) to the oldest (at 73), has his own life story filled with unique challenges, skills, dreams, goals, and experiences. One challenge many of our men face as they launch into their job search is their age. Seventy percent of our current residents are 50 years old or older. Twelve of them are over sixty. Finding a decent new full-time job as an older adult has its challenges. Our men also face other barriers to employment like past incarceration, a spotty work history, or an incomplete education. We cannot go back to change the past, but we can certainly work hard to help our men compensate for these challenges by providing resources, training, and practical experiences that equip them for the uphill battle.

We provide things like professional clothing and shoes, internet access, carfare, and letters of reference. Our training focuses on Adult Basic Education (basic instruction in reading, writing, and math that’s geared toward adult learners), computer skills, and a myriad of topics related to getting a job and keeping it. As essential as all of those things are, I think the strength of our work program lies in the opportunity our men have to put it all into practice in a safe, constructive environment by helping out with our thrift stores, food service operation, facilities upkeep, and the like. As they do so, program participants are simultaneously building their resumes with relevant work experience while also getting constructive real-time feedback from work supervisors. Check out what Chris, DJ and James have to say about our work program and how it’s preparing them for the future. DJ’s motivation to persevere in finding and keeping a good steady job comes in the form of his five-year-old daughter. He had the joy last week of taking her to Chuck E. Cheese for her 5th birthday (as I told DJ, that’s exactly what my parents did for me for my 5th birthday – a fun choice indeed!).

Thank you for investing in the careers and lives of men like Chris, DJ and James. The impact of your gifts stretch beyond individual men to their families and communities, and we are all the richer for it. The Lord’s richest blessings to you and yours!

Grace and peace,

Heather L. Rice, D.Min.
Executive Director

Executive Director, Heather Rice with the daughter of a Mission graduate who came back with his family to visit.
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You’re Invited!

Join us for an afternoon of celebration!

Date: Saturday, April 27, 2024

Time: Service begins at 2:00 pm, Refreshments to follow at 3:30 pm

Calvary Presbyterian Church
405 Easton Rd.,
Willow Grove, PA 19090
(On Rt. 611 heading north, on the right just above where Routes 263 & 611 separate; or on the left heading south on Rt. 611 from the PA Turnpike Willow Grove interchange)

Cost: FREE ~ There is no charge

Parking: Calvary Presbyterian Church has a wonderful, large onsite parking lot.

No RSVP Required

For 132 years, God has been demonstrating His goodness here at the Whosoever Gospel Mission in countless ways. When a man experiencing homelessness comes to the Mission, his encounter with God’s goodness does not end with just a good meal, a hot shower, and a safe place to sleep. The invitation to “taste and see that the Lord is good,” extends much further than just meeting basic needs. God’s goodness overflows in our daily chapels, in classes and tutoring, in counseling sessions, in addiction recovery groups, and concerts, and friendships formed over games of ping-pong and basketball and chess.

Join us as we take time to pause and celebrate God’s goodness together as the Mission family. Enjoy an afternoon of first-hand testimonies, joyful singing, and an update on what God is doing in the life of the Mission. Fellowship with us after the service and enjoy refreshments with Mission residents, staff, our board of directors, volunteers, supporters, and friends! We hope to see you there!

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From the Director ~ March 2024

Dear Friends,

It’s almost spring! I’m excited for longer hours of sunshine each day and warmer weather on the horizon. In the meantime, I’m very grateful that the buildings that have housed us for over a century still keep us warm and dry (there’s a wet wintry mix falling as I write this!). As you might imagine, it takes an army of staff, volunteers, and professional tradespeople to keep these big old buildings in good working order. We’ve been blessed with excellent vendors – from plumbers and roofers to HVAC and electrical professionals. They are incredibly responsive and always available to answer my texts and calls (one even answered my call and talked me through resetting our chiller on the roof while he was competing in a horseshoe tournament – sadly he lost the tournament, but happily our chiller started working again!). I realize how blessed we are, and I am grateful.

I am also incredibly grateful for the many volunteers that continually bless our residents, staff, and the Mission as a whole. Just recently, blessings poured into the Mission for Valentine’s Day, all thanks to our wonderful volunteers and friends. That week we had a special pizza dinner, an amazing Italian feast, and hand-made cards and decorations from school children. Soon, groups of volunteers will be helping us spruce up our property for the spring and get ready for some more capital projects. On a regular basis, volunteers tutor our men in adult basic education (especially reading, writing and math), bring us donated baked-goods and other rescued food from restaurants and grocery stores, sort donated clothing, price jewelry for our thrift shops, and help with facilities upkeep (like painting and hanging blinds), just to name a few things. Volunteers do so much for the Mission. We would be at a loss without them.

If you have volunteered at the Mission over the past year, please accept my heartfelt thanks for all that you’ve done to bless our men. We are grateful beyond words. Please also accept our deepest thanks for your kind and generous financial gifts. We need both – volunteers AND financial support – to keep our ministry to men experiencing homelessness going strong. Together with you, we share so much more than food, shelter, and clothing with those who come to us seeking help. For Al, our most recent graduate, that “more” translated into things like finding meaningful employment, moving into his own lovely place, beginning the process of reconciliation with his family, receiving notice of a promotion at work, and experiencing the joy and peace of the Lord in ways that he never before imagined possible. Thank you for partnering with us to bless Al (and so many others like him) in such tangible ways. The Lord bless and keep you and yours in His love!

Grace and Peace,

Heather L. Rice, D.Min.
Executive Director

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From the Director ~ Jan/Feb 2024

Dear friends

I hope you had a wonderfully rich and enjoyable holiday season with those you love. We certainly did here at the Mission (even with a few rounds of colds, flu, and COVID – thank you to all who have kept the cold & flu meds coming!). So many friends made our celebrations extra festive for our men and their families with wonderful gifts, homemade treats, special meals and chapels, and even a Christmas concert with strings and piano. It would be impossible to personally thank everyone who generously gave to make our celebrations what they were. Please accept our very deep and sincere thanks for your part in our celebrations! We couldn’t do it without you!

One gentleman stood up and shared in chapel that he has struggled with holidays the past several years because they remind him of the family he doesn’t have. Then he smiled, extended his arms, looked around the room, and said, “but now look how big my family is.” The Mission truly is a family.

For others, like Tony (name changed for privacy), God uses the Mission to reestablish and restore family relationships. Tony came to us directly from prison in April 2021, arriving around 1:00 AM (he took a Greyhound and a cab from Pittsburgh after being released late in the afternoon). Panicky, Tony thought he was in the wrong place when he arrived to find the Mission all closed up (it was 1:00 AM!). We were able to get him safely in and settled for the night. That was the start of Tony’s long journey of hard work and perseverance – all of which paid off. In May 2022, Tony graduated from the New Life Program with a good job and moved into a two-bedroom house – big enough to have his three young children with him. He has worked hard to be there for his kids who have had a difficult journey themselves. I’m delighted to share that Tony is still doing well and continues to check in regularly with us. Fast-forward to this Christmas season – Tony had to work the day we had our toy giveaway, so we picked out toys for him to give to his children. When he came by to pick them up, he was all smiles. He made it a point to stop in our various offices sharing hugs and greetings with everyone. The reason for his joy? “My kids are all home! They’re at my house!” He shared once again how grateful he is for all the Mission has done for him.

Your investment in the Mission is an investment in the lives of real people like Tony and his kids. Thank you! Please keep us in mind as the cold settles in and our expenses rise! Your continued support means so much. We are grateful! Please also save the date to join us for an Afternoon of Celebration at Calvary Presbyterian Church in Willow Grove on Saturday, April 27th. More details will follow. The Lord bless you and yours in His mercy, love and grace!

Grace and peace,

Heather L. Rice, D.Min.
Executive Director

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From the Director ~ Thanksgiving 2023

Dear friends,

Happy Thanksgiving! As we pause to consider our blessings here at the Mission, there’s not enough room to list them all! One thing in particular strikes me – the more trials we go through, the more problems we face, the more we realize how much we’ve had to be thankful for all along.

Before the arson fire that burned us down in 2006, I didn’t feel particularly thankful for the everyday messes of Mission life. Quite the opposite – at times I complained about them in my heart. After the fire, the clean-out and rebuilding process was long and hard. For two years and nine months our dorm was closed. Our drop-in services were minimal compared to the comprehensive services we once offered. Then came Monday, November 24, 2008. We reopened our doors and invited the first 13 men into our newly rebuilt facility. As I was wiping up crumbs from the dining table after we served our first lunch, it hit me – this was a good mess, a blessed and holy one! I gave God thanks for it, and I vowed then and there to thank Him for the messes yet to come, because they are signs that life is happening here, that transformation and restoration are in process. I took the privilege of serving for granted until it was lost in the fire. But the Mission’s restoration brought sweeter joy and greater thanks than I could have known before the hardship that took it all away.

Many of our men have a similar experience when coming to the Mission. They come at a low point, having lost so much. But as different aspects of life are restored bit by bit, they begin to give thanks for things they once took for granted. It makes me think of Cody. It’s been 9 years since Cody graduated from the New Life Program, and he still routinely mails or drops off cards of encouragement for Mission staff. Just recently Cody came by to drop off some cards and he handed me an envelope. It was a cash donation for our work. On the outside he had written his name and a note that said “Thank you for saving my life. I love the Whosoever Gospel Mission.” Before Cody came to the Mission, he spent just about every day for 15 long years sitting on the front steps of a house in the neighborhood, holding a bottle in a brown paper bag. Since graduating from the Mission, Cody has never turned back. He is full of joy and life, and his heart overflows with love and thankfulness. He is grateful he’s not on a front stoop with a bottle in his hand. From time to time he’ll look at one of us as he remembers, and he’ll shake his head and say “Can you believe it?”

Another thing I’m thankful for – something I don’t want to take for granted – is you. I realize that our ability to exist and to offer our services to the men who come to us is dependent upon the generosity and support of friends like yourself. Your prayers and support are critical to the life transformation of men like Cody. You are an integral part of all our stories. And I give thanks for you. Thank you for being part of our Mission family. The Lord richly bless you and yours this year as you pause and gather to give thanks.

With thankfulness for you,

Heather L. Rice, D.Min.
Executive Director

Kevin enjoying his meal on Thanksgiving Day, 2022
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4 Ways You Can Help this Holiday Season

New Unwrapped Toys & Gifts

Each year, homeless dads living at the Mission give gifts to hundreds of their kids & grandkids. For many men, it’s a first step toward reconnecting with family. See the joy of our toy giveaway firsthand here. We need your help again!

Here’s how you can help:
Buy new, unwrapped toys, stocking stuffers & gifts for ages 0-18 (especially gifts valued at $25 or less).

Deadline: Monday, December 11th
Call Tina at 215 438 3094 x 104 by Dec. 4th to arrange for drop-off or pick-up.

Gift Bags for 55 Men Experiencing Homelessness

Let our men know they are loved! Fill small party favor bags with special snacks, Christmas cookies, or with things like lotion, lip balm, tissues, etc. (please don’t mix food and soap).

Or, contribute towards larger gifts that we’re putting together for each resident. Call Heather at (215) 438-3094 x 103 to coordinate. We’re gathering things like umbrellas, laundry bags, portfolio folders, gift cards, thermal mugs, calendars, small personal storage containers & the like.

Deadline: Monday, Dec 18th
Call Tina at 215 438 3094 x 104 by Dec. 4th to arrange for drop-off or pick-up.

Dormitory Needs

We are always in need of the following items:

  • Large Bath Towels
  • Twin Sheet Sets (colors and patterns are great!)
  • Large Shower Shoes for Men
  • Full-size Bottles of Shampoo for Men
  • Laundry Bags/Collapsible Hampers
  • New Reusable Water Bottles
  • New Thermal Travel Mugs
  • Gel Toilet Bowl Cleaner
  • Foaming Tub and Tile Cleaner (in cans)

If ordering online, you can ship directly to the Mission at 101 E. Chelten Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19144.

Food Drives & Gift Cards

If you’d like to do a food drive for us, please call Heather at (215) 438-3094 x 103 for current needs.

We could also always use the following gift cards for perishable items and other urgent supply needs as they arise:

Walmart (also good at Sam’s Club)
The Home Depot
Lowe’s Home Improvement
BJ’s Wholesale Club

Call Tina at 215 438 3094 x 104 to arrange for drop-off, pick-up, mail-in, or e-gift delivery.

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From the Director ~ October 2023

Dear Friends,

Happy Fall! As we launch into our new fiscal year this month, so many good things are happening at the Mission. We’re about to get 59 much-needed new windows installed in our dorm building within the next month. Our beds are full, and we have a waiting list of men seeking to enter. We’re pleased, by God’s grace, to continue offering a full array of physical, spiritual, educational, social, and vocational supports and services. We rejoice with four men who just graduated and moved into their own places, and we’re excited to see what God has for us this year.

As we come to the holidays, we need your help! Please check out the enclosed handout for ways you can make a big difference in the lives of our men. The Fall also marks the beginning of workplace giving campaigns. The happy news is that through your workplace giving campaign, you can designate your gift to the Whosoever Gospel Mission.

  • The United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey – donate to the Mission through United Way’s Donor Choice Option. Our Code Number is 1045.
  • The Combined Federal Campaign – federal employees can choose the Mission to receive their gift through the CFC. Our Code Number is 69784.
  • The City of Philadelphia Employees’ Combined Campaign – the Whosoever Gospel Mission is listed in the Contributor’s Guide under the category: Independent Charities Vetted by America’s Charities. Our Code Number is 30-0047.
  • United Campaigns in other states and regions – you can still designate your gift to the Whosoever Gospel Mission even if you live and work in another state or region of the country. Check your campaign booklet or ask your workplace United Way coordinator.
  • America’s Charities, Network for Good, Benevity Causes, CAF America, U of P Pennsway Campaign, and the Blackbaud Giving Fund as well as others provide a platform for several workplace giving campaigns throughout the region – check with your company’s workplace giving coordinator to find out how you can designate your gift to the Mission if your workplace uses one of these employee giving platforms.
  • Matching Gift Programs – many companies will match their employees’ gifts to a non-profit dollar for dollar. Check with your employer to see if they have a Matching Gift Program. You may be able to double your gift to the Mission at no additional cost to you.

Your gifts are being used every day to encourage and equip our men with the tools and resources they need – not simply to get back on their feet, but to enjoy long-term success as productive, contributing members of our community. Thank you! The Lord bless you.

Grace and peace,

Heather L. Rice, D.Min.
Executive Director

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From the Director ~ September 2023

Dear friends

As we come to the end of our fiscal year here at the Mission, I look back over the past twelve months and I see so many ways that the Lord has blessed us through you! Thank you!! Because of you we’ve been able to continue the essential life-saving work that’s been going on here at 101 East Chelten Avenue for over a century. Through your generosity, we’ve been able to continue building upon the solid foundation of the New Life Program, growing our team, and strengthening our services. That translates into more of the good things we experience here every day – the building of relationships, greater freedom from addictions, stronger family bonds, vocational and educational development, increasing confidence, deepening hope in the face of daunting obstacles, and spiritual, emotional, social, and physical healing and growth.

The impact of these things ripples out to reach beyond a man’s stay in the New Life Program. I was reminded of this today when Mission graduate Joey stopped by with his young granddaughter (who was just a toddler the last time I saw her!). I told her she was growing, to which she proudly replied “That’s because I’ve been putting food in my mouth to get bigger.” While Joey and I were having a good chuckle over this, she spontaneously leaned in to give me a big hug. She adores her “Pawpaw” (and shares a bit of his southern accent!). It was delightful to see them. It struck me that this little one has the blessing of a wonderful grandfather in large part because friends like you invested in her pawpaw when he was at the Mission rebuilding his life seven years ago. He’s still doing well today.

Our beds are full and we continue to provide comprehensive services every day including classes, tutoring, counseling, chapels, vocational readiness training, addiction recovery support, and the like. It’s been our joy to continue helping our guys with 50% of their security deposit and move-in expense as they graduate and secure their own permanent housing. Lots of folks respond to special needs that we share (like making up New Home Welcome Baskets to give to men as they set up their new apartments, or dropping off fresh garden produce and homemade baked goods, or coming in to serve as a technology tutor, or responding to a needs list). We are grateful!

We’ve also been building our staff which in turn allows us to focus more on individual residents and their unique needs. That’s essential to the heart of our ministry. The New Life Program’s strength lies in the relationships that form as we seek to obey the two Great Commandments – to love God and love others. Thank you for joining us in sharing God’s love with the men He sends our way. I’m excited and grateful to head into this new fiscal year together with you! Please continue to support us with your generous gifts – we’d be most grateful. The Lord bless and keep you in His steadfast love!

Grace and peace,

Heather L. Rice, D.Min.
Executive Director

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